I was tabling at last week’s NOCAZ Fest when two brothers (I’m guessing between the ages of 10 & 14?) named Beau & Joey let me with a film recommendation I promised I’d look into ASAP. I forget exactly how we got on the subject, but it probably had to do with our Marabunta Cinema zine, which is a collection of reviews of movies about killer ants. Beau, the younger of the pair, enthusiastically described the gruesome scenes of a Z-grade creature feature in which a gigantic spider melted the faces off patients in a hospital. When it came to telling me the title of the film, however, he sheepishly deferred to his older, quieter brother, due to a mild expletive in its title. Joey’s response? “Big Ass Spider!“.
Big Ass Spider! is perfectly suited for Beau & Joey’s demographic. It’s got the intentionally campy, Z-movie feel of a Syfy Channel Original but, as the title suggests, its tongue-in-cheek violence is slightly racier than what you’d typically find in the Sharknado format. The titular big ass spider melts faces, stabs chest cavities, and devours victims after grabbing them with its web like Mortal Kombat‘s Scorpion. All of this mayhem is promised as soon as the opening prologue, where the spider is going full King Kong at the top of a Los Angeles skyscraper, soundtracked by a down-tempo cover of “Where Is My Mind?” (in a little bit of borrowed Fight Club cool). Schlock fans are unlikely too find too much new or surprising here, except maybe in the detail that the spider grows exponentially in size by the hour, but the film is intentionally goofy enough to work & I can attest to at least two testimonies of it serving as a decent introduction to the creature feature as a genre.
By the way, speaking of the Syfy Channel, director Mike Mendez’ project immediately following Big Ass Spider! was the previously-covered Lavalantula, a Syfy movie about spiders that spew hot volcano lava at Steve “The Gutte” Guttenberg. Big Ass Spider! may have landed Mendez the job for Lavalantula, but distinctly feels more like a personal pet project for the director. Because he couldn’t afford a casting director, for instance, Mendez supposedly cast the entire film using his Facebook friends list. That means that Mendez is Facebook friends with Lin Shaye (best known for her work in Detroit Rock City & the Insidious franchise), Ray Wise (best known to me from Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!), and Lloyd Kaufman (best known for blessing/cursing the world with Troma Video). Sounds like a cool dude to me. Mendez also stuck to his guns when distributors wanted to rename the film Dino Spider or Mega Spider, claiming that “Big Ass Spider! is the right title for the movie. I felt it in my heart and soul.” I can’t argue with him there. A lot of Big Ass Spider!’s charm is in knowing the whole time that there is a real-life movie called Big Ass Spider! and that you’re watching it.
Despite a couple missteps like an uncomfortable Hispanic stereotype sidekick, a stale “Hide your kids, hide your wife” reference, and some Da Hip Hop Witch-style street interview ramblings, Big Ass Spider! gets by enough on its inherent charm to stand out as an enjoyable, occasionally gruesome diversion. In short, if it’s good enough for Beau & Joey, it’s good enough for me.